Gambia’s UN Envoy threatens the country’s first female presidential candidate

Samsudeen-Sarr-HeadshotThe Gambia’s Deputy Ambassador to the United Nations who said he would shoot at unarmed protesters in April has threatened the West African nation’s first ever female presidential hopeful, Dr. Isatou Touray, saying while Jammeh may tolerate some political games, any activity that will compromise national security will not be tolerated.

Deputy Ambassador Samsudeen Sarr, who has been belligerent since his reconciliation with the country’s longtime ruler President Yahya Jammeh said Touray has been suddenly found as the “political saint or savior” that the Gambians in the diaspora think, could defeat Jammeh.

“But all of a sudden they found in you the political saint or savior that they think could defeat President Jammeh through peace or violence. Mark you, whichever path you may choose to adopt, I only would warn you to be mindful of engaging in activities posing a threat to the country’s national security. Because with every political game President Jammeh may tolerate, any activity intended to compromise the national security of the country is nothing he will condone,” Sarr said.

The Gambia’s government has used national security as a premise to send many of President Yahya Jammeh’s opponents to prison or even kill them. However, Dr. Touray’s campaign has always maintained that her candidacy is supported by Gambians at home and abroad who want peaceful and democratic change.

President Yahya Jammeh has been accused of making violent change inevitable by passing laws that make peaceful and democratic change impossible. Jammeh, who came to power in 1994 said he will serve a billion years and he survived at least a dozen coups.

The Gambian autocratic ruler once told reporters that he had put his life on the line to become the country’s president, and anyone willing to replace him must do the same.

Sarr said Dr. Touray being an anti-FGM campaigner and a doctorate holder does not provide her with the excess to risk participation in the country’s politics. He has called her presidential bid a provocation.

Touray has seen a sharp increase in endorsements from civil society and youth leaders in The Gambia and outside the country. Her supporters say she has brought renewed hope for change and that the threats of “irresponsible” officials like Samsudeen Sarr, who feel they and the APRC are above the law are part of the reason that they want a president who will ensure equality, restore their dignity and have the rule of law applied.

Fear and intimidation have been used by President Jammeh to suppress dissent but opposition supporters said that tactic was before but not under the current situation because they have had enough of his “bad leadership and disregard to Gambian lives.”

This year, at least two opposition supporters died in prison and more than 50 others including UDP leader Ousainou Darboe are incarcerated for taking part in rare protests that rocked the nation. The deaths and unjust jailing have been decried by Dr. Touray and the international community.

President Jammeh in 2011 said he has no opposition. He branded those seeking to oust him even through the polls as “enemies of the state.” But Touray supporters, who say they are progressives, said Sarr assertion that merely participating in politics in The Gambia is risky is a wake-up call for all Gambians to go to the polls in December and end President Jammeh’s rule.

Sarr was a commander in The Gambia’s army before falling apart with President Jammeh. He applied for asylum in the United States, where he is now a citizen. Jammeh called Sarr “the liar of the century” after writing a book against the president’s person. They reunited in 2014 and was last week given an award by The Gambian leader for his renewed support. Sarr, who equates living in America to that of a jungle, has become one of President Jammeh’s anti-America and anti-west campaigners, but yet to denounce his American citizenship.

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